Drucker’s Wisdom on the Fundamental Principle of Strategy*
“Extraordinary achievements demand extraordinary leaders.“
* Adapted from The Art of the Strategist: 10 Essential Principles for Leading Your Company to Victory” (AMACOM, 2005).
© 2006 William A. Cohen, PhD
Peter Drucker was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, management thinkers of our time. His thinking covered all aspects of business and organizational thinking, including both leadership and strategy. I was privileged to be Drucker’s doctoral student at Claremont Graduate University in the mid to late 1970’s. Afterwards we stayed in touch and he was kind enough to take the time to spend with me to both encourage me and and to challenge and make me think through my ideas. He may have seen things in me that I did not see in myself, because long before I became a senior military officer, or advanced in academia, he recommended me and promoted my books.
Many do not know it, but Drucker had an abiding interest in defense, I think this came originally from his own defense work as an organizational consultant early in World War II. He sometimes spoke about military issues in the classroom, and years later after I graduated I was surprised to discover that his expertise extended to the American Civil War and its impact on European armies afterwards, and we sometimes discussed these issues.
Drucker wrote that the fundamental decision that the leaders of any business must make is to decide the answer to a simple and straight-forward question: “What business am I in?”1 From this single question, one can derive the mission of the organization and its purpose as well as important goals and objectives and then the actions necessary to achieve them. My own study of history had led me to the same conclusion — and that the establishment of a definite objective coming from “what business are you in?” or exactly what is it that you want to do is the fundamental principle of all strategy.
Start with Defining the Objective
Everywhere you look, you see people who logically should not even attempt what they attempt. But they are so committed to a definite objective that more often than anyone can believe possible, their strategies are successful and they win. Ronald Reagan a “washed up actor” according to his detractors, became governor of California and then one of the most popular presidents of the United States in history. Jesse “the Body” Ventura, the former professional wrestler, became Governor of Minnesota after professional politicians told him, “There is no way you can accomplish this – no former professional wrestler has ever been elected to public office.” Most recent in the political arena, Arnold Schwarzenegger first a champion body builder, and then a movie star did the same thing. They each started with a definite objective.
How does this happen? The basis is the fundamental principle of strategy: commitment to a definite objective. All three men picked a specific objective and then made it happen. Of course it isn’t all that easy. Just becoming a successful actor, which all three achieved is incredibly difficult. Some years ago a young man was determined to become an important actor. However, during World War I, he had been a sailor in the navy and his lip was severely injured when his ship was torpedoed by a German submarine. His deformity gave him an unusual, tight-lipped expression and a slight lisp.
Nevertheless, he was committed to his objective so he went to New York and started reading for every part that he could. His persistence and concentration got him roles, but his disfigurement and speech impediment limited him to bit parts. He just couldn’t really breakout. He decided to try Hollywood. He went to Hollywood and his persistence actually got him minor roles in eight films, but again these were just bit parts. Not enough to make a living from. Most thought that his deformity would forever keep him from larger parts.
Although from a wealthy family, he had by now gone through his entire inheritance. He returned to New York and kept trying. One day he read for the part of a gangster in a major play on Broadway. Here his war wound worked for him – it made him sound like a gangster. He got the part and performed well. When Warner Bros. bought the rights and produced the movie, they liked him so much he was asked to play the part. Again his performance was unique and acting was considered extraordinary. So impressed were the producers with his performance that he went on to the major roles that had previously eluded him. With his clear and definite goal always before him, Humphrey Bogart persisted to become the great actor he envisioned despite the odds against him.2
I don’t know of any successful individual in any occupation who does not begin with a clear definition of a definite objective. You can’t develop an effective way to get “there” until you know exactly where “there” is. The U.S. armed forces Commanders Estimation of the Situation outline begins with “Mission. State the assigned or deduced task and its purpose.” You cannot build commitment to a mission without first defining that mission. But, once you have defined your mission, you are half way there to achieving it.
The Three Forces on Which Commitment Is Built
British Major General J.F.C. Fuller wrote many books on strategy based on his personal observations and analysis beginning with his first-hand participation in the fighting during World War I. He first articulated the concept of a foundation, consisting of the three aspects of physical, mental, and moral forces, on which all strategy is based. The physical force he described has to do actual physical strength or resources; the mental force with knowledge or intelligence; and the moral force with attitudinal or spiritual values. According to Fuller, who was writing about strategy in war, “Mental force does not win a war; moral force does not win a war; physical force does not win a war; but what does win a war is the highest combination of the these three forces acting as one force.”3 When we analyze any successful strategy after a competition, business or otherwise, we will invariably find that the basis of the victory is the commitment of the strategist based on these three forces. The four men, Reagan, Ventura, Schwarzenegger, and Bogart all started with a firm commitment to their definite objectives based on the physical, mental, and moral forces that they were able to bring to bear to act together synergistically to help them achieve their goals.
It is interesting to note how Reagan and Schwarzenegger used what they had learned as actors in their new roles as politicians. Reagan was known as “the great communicator.” Schwarzenegger is able to project himself and communicate with his audience despite his Austrian accent. If anything, he uses it to his advantage. Jesse Ventura turned the fact that he had been a professional wrestler on its head to project a no-nonsense, non-politician image which helped rather than hurt, him. After his election, his supporters had t-shirts made up proclaiming, “My Governor Can Whip Your Governor.” Humphrey Bogart used his speech impediment and his deformity to help him as an actor. No one could really copy his performance unless they had a similar war wound.
Applying Commitment to Strategy
Any strategist can apply the principle of commitment to both the planning and implementation of strategy while keeping in mind Fuller’s three forces: physical, mental and moral. Here are five proven techniques that will help you incorporate your commitment into your strategy:
1. Think Through Your Goals Until They Are Clear and Definite
2. Make a Public Commitment
3. Promote Your Goals and Objectives
4. Expect and Deal with the Dragons
5. Adjust Your Strategy, But Not Your Objectives
1. Think Through Your Goals Until They Are Clear and Definite
Your commitment must start with defining your goals clearly. Only in this way can you proceed to strengthening this commitment, publicly committing to reaching your goals and then promoting your goals to others. You can’t make some public commitment to go somewhere until you know where this “somewhere” is yourself. Once you have clearly defined your goals and objectives, you can proceed to making a public commitment to reaching them. On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy made a bold challenge to a joint session of Congress: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving a goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” Embarrassed by the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba and sick of watching the United States fall behind the Soviet Union in the space race, Kennedy wanted to publicly commit himself and the country as a whole to a definite objective. The President consulted with Vice President Lyndon Johnson and his science advisors in order to formulate a plan. Together, they determined that although safely landing a man on the moon would be a difficult undertaking, it was a goal that the United States could achieve before the Russians. Despite skeptics who thought it could never be accomplished, Kennedy’s vision became a reality on July 20, 1969 when Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong took a small step off the ladder of the Lunar Module “Eagle” and set foot on the moon’s surface.
2. Make a Public Commitment
Many people are afraid to make a public commitment to the objective or goal they select. They are afraid that they will appear foolish or incompetent if they don’t reach the objective to which they have publicly committed. Let me tell you about a man who made a public commitment although he had failed repeatedly throughout his career.
The career of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, prior to his attaining the presidency can only be termed “unique.” By the year 1854, Lincoln had encountered failure in just about everything he had tried, including working for others, as a lawyer and independent businessman, working as a government employee, and as a political candidate for office. Yet, Lincoln was known to be honest, smart, upright, and courageous. That’s why those who knew him continued to back him despite his incredibly poor track record. But the truth was he had approached all of these previous challenges in a half-hearted way and his public commitment to attaining these goals was wishy-washy at best. How do we know? Because Lincoln himself told us this.
In 1854, U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas from Lincoln’s state of Illinois, who was Chairman of the Senate Committee on Territories, agreed to repeal the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The effect would be to permit slavery to be introduced to the new states forming in the territories in the West. Lincoln was incensed. According to Lincoln’s own writings, the repeal of the Missouri Compromise aroused him as he never had been aroused before He expressed his ideas to everyone that would listen and told them that he was totally committed to ending slavery in the United States. For the first time, he made a truly public commitment to attaining a definite goal he had set.
Just prior to Douglas’s actions, Lincoln had decided to give up politics. He had been a lifelong member of the Whig Party. With Lincoln’s new found “arousal” to a clear and definite purpose, and a public commitment to his goal, he resigned the Whig Party and joined the new small, but growing, Republican Party.
In 1858, the Senatorial term of Douglas came to an end and he ran what was thought to be an easy campaign for re-election. By common consent the impassioned and committed Lincoln represented the Republican Party and opposed him. He challenged Douglas at every turn. Finally, Douglas agreed to a series of seven debates. Lincoln was eloquent and he did very well, but in the end, Douglas still won his re-election. However, for the first time, the fully committed Lincoln had reached a national forum. The debates received national attention and were carried by every newspaper in the country, not just in Illinois. Moreover, Lincoln’s arguments for the abolishment of slavery not only gained national attention, but also convinced tens of thousands that the time had come to move toward this goal.
In the election of 1860, the Republican Party had their convention in Chicago. It was expected that William H. Seward of New York would be nominated. He was the party’s leader. But if his nomination failed, Salmon P. Chase of Ohio was thought to be the delegates’ overwhelming choice. However on the convention floor in Chicago, it was clear that both of these men, having spent years in public life, had acquired too many enemies. Neither one could gain the nomination.
After two inconclusive ballots, the delegates remembered the 1858 debates. They recalled that Lincoln came from a pivotal state, had won national recognition, was a frontiersman and had fought as a captain in the Black Hawk Indian War. Moreover, he lacked the “baggage” of all the other leading candidates. Lincoln won the nomination of the Republican Party on the third ballot. Meanwhile the Democratic Party had split into two parties. As a result, Lincoln’s election as President was assured.
Many have sought for years to discover just how Lincoln had pulled off this amazing “coup.” What was his incredible strategy that turned him from the on-again, off-again loser he had been previously to become President of the United States? (The best selling book Winning Through Intimidation even claimed that Lincoln won through intimidating others. There is no historical evidence for this.) But the one principle of strategy that he applied was certain. He knew that to stop the expansion of slavery he needed to have political power. His strategy, whatever it was, was no longer halfway. He was totally committed to gaining the power he needed to accomplish his clear, precise objective and this commitment was public, with no turning back. It took several years and a devastating Civil War that culminated in Lincoln’s own assassination. But Lincoln did succeed. His commitment to a clear, precise, objective resulted in the goal of the abolishment of slavery being reached, and it changed his country forever
3. Promote Your Goals and Objectives
One of the key reasons that we won the first Gulf War with minimum casualties was the unique strategy employed by General Norman Schwarzkopf, the overall commander. Yet, that strategy was initially opposed by just about everyone. It violated the strategic doctrine of at least two military services and even violated the methodology by which strategy was supposed to evolve in the military. On top of that, the strategy’s originator, Air Force Colonel John A. Warden III, did not have the political clout, high rank, or a salesman’s personality to persuade others of the value of his strategic concepts. But thanks to his expertise and commitment, he achieved his goal anyway.
Colonel Warden was known as a very bright, innovative thinker in the Air Force. Some said he was too bright. He became convinced that the way in which airpower had been employed in the past, in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam was completely wrong, or at least obsolete. Never mind that leaders from the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps didn’t understand how to employ modern airpower. According to Warden, even Air Force Generals didn’t have it right. Still this wasn’t necessarily heresy. General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, who commanded the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, and was the only Air Force general ever promoted to five-star rank had said: “Any air force which does not keep its doctrine ahead of its equipment, and its vision far into the future, can only delude the nation into a false sense of security.”
Warden was committed to his ideas and his goal of getting them accepted as doctrine in the Air Force. He began promoting these ideas with the publication of his bookThe Air Campaign: Planning for Combat (Washington, D.C.: NDU Press, 1988). Many considered this book a breakthrough. Warden campaigned and promoted his ideas in speeches and papers incessantly. Though brilliant, Warden could be outspoken, tactless, and abrasive, and would sometimes move faster than those commanders he reported to wished to move. As a result, he could get himself into trouble, and sometimes did.
Eventually, the Air Force thought they had found a great job for him. They assigned Warden as Air Force deputy director of war-fighting concepts in the Pentagon, heading up an advanced planning group on the Air Staff known as “Checkmate.” Those who ran the Air Force thought that in this way Warden would be able to give free rein to his advanced thinking about strategy. The Air Force would gain the benefits of his ideas, but he would be out of the way in a advanced thinking organization and wouldn’t irritate too many senior leaders in the Air Force and other services who were senior organizational commanders.
When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait precipitating the Gulf War in August of 1990, Colonel Warden was on vacation with his wife in the Caribbean. As soon as the ship docked midway, he caught the first flight to Washington and returned to the Pentagon. He was determined to put together a proposal for ousting Iraq from Kuwait based on his concepts, and to develop and implement a strategy to sell it to his civilian and military superiors. That an officer of this relatively junior rank, in the position he occupied, would commit to such a goal is in itself almost unbelievable to those who understand how the military works.
The overall commander’s air component commander normally develops the air strategy plan for a war. In 1990, this was Lieutenant General (later four-star General) Chuck Horner, who reported to General Schwarzkopf, CENTCOM commander. Even Schwarzkopf could only implement the strategy after approval by General Colin Powell, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In addition, such a strategy would never come from an advanced or contingency planning group. It would probably be developed within Tactical Air Command who owned most of the Air Force’s tactical aircraft assets, and which would be shifted to General Horner’s control for the war. Colonel Warden shouldn’t have had any role, except maybe as a consultant regarding contingency plans his group had developed, and then only if asked. Moreover, we’re talking about the air strategy plan only, not the whole strategic concept for the employment of all the military services: Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines Corps for the war. But Warden’s concept impacted directly on any overall plan.
Warden had some other things working against him. The Army’s concept for a regional war of this type was called the Air-Land Battle. This envisioned a joint attack by an overwhelming force of ground and air forces operating together to defeat an enemy. The overall commander, General Schwarzkopf, and General Powell, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were both Army generals. If that weren’t enough, General Horner, the air component commander, had seen the terrible results and waste of men and air power during the Vietnam War when strategy was planned thousands of miles from the battle, back in Washington. Horner was certain that planning had to be de-centralized and done by the force that would be implementing it. The idea of “a think tank” for contingency air-war fighting in the Pentagon developing his part of the war plan was contrary to everything he had learned, knew and understood. He would fight the process, if not the concept, in every way he could. And he did.
Despite all of these serious obstacles, Warden successfully directed his group in developing his concept of an air campaign initiated separately and prior to the ground campaign that was eventually adopted and implemented for the Gulf War. He succeeded by promoting his objective unceasingly. By hook or crook, this relatively junior officer succeeded in presenting to and convincing the top generals and civilian leaders of his ideas. For the first time in history, a ground campaign was preceded be an extensive air campaign developed on Warden’s new model. The results resulted in a decisive defeat for Hussein and without a doubt saved thousands of allied casualties. However, I have to add a cautionary note here which also impacts on some of Drucker’s ideas. Peter said that any organization which continued to do what had made it successful in the past would eventually fail. He meant this for business, but in the military, we were always taught not to try and fight the next war with the successful strategies of the last.
Upon Warden’s retirement from the Air Force several years later, General Schwarzkopf sent him a personal letter acknowledging his contribution to the victory in Desert Storm. Since then, Warden’s ideas have influenced a new generation of Air Force leaders. In fact, it would not be out of place to credit his concepts with another victory in which few allied casualties were suffered in Bosnia several years later.
4. Expect and Deal with the Dragons
Once you’ve committed to a clearly defined objective, you can focus on what you want to accomplish – your mission. But getting from “here to there” often is not so easy. There will invariably be obstacles and problems – “dragons” – that appear along the way. You must deal with them while keeping your eye on your ultimate goal.
In 1996, Lance Armstrong was among the world’s top cycling racers. He had set a lifetime, extremely difficult, but not impossible goal for himself. Armstrong wanted to win the Tour de France. The Tour de France is arguably the most difficult trek for cycling racers in the world. It is 2,286 grueling miles long, much of it in mountainous areas. Only one American had ever won this tough race previously. Lance Armstrong set out to be the second. Then he ran into a “dragon,” and it was a big one.
Armstrong was diagnosed with advanced, stage three, testicular cancer. Doctors gave Armstrong at most a 50 percent chance of survival; some estimated his chances as low as 30 percent.
He had surgery. Afterwards, it was discovered that the cancer had spread to his lymph system, abdomen and lungs. He had twelve tumors in his abdomen, some as large as golf balls, and more than twice that number in his lungs. It was questionable whether Armstrong would survive. After more surgery, twelve weeks of chemotherapy and a forced, yearlong hiatus from racing, Armstrong was told he was cancer-free. But his body was damaged and broken from battling the disease. He was hardly in the top physical condition he had been in prior to the disease’s onset. He still wanted to race, but his friends told him he should consider himself lucky to be alive and let it go at that.
When Armstrong announced that he was going to compete in the Tour de France, everyone was stunned. Doctors advised against it. No one gave him even the slightest chance of winning. Many thought he would not even be able to finish, and that he may not even survive. But that is not how Armstrong thought. He expected dragons along the way. Maybe he did not expect a dragon as cruel and tough as one as he encountered. But when he started out, he had committed to a clear and definite objective. He knew he would encounter obstacles, and he defined his cancer challenge as just another obstacle that he needed to overcome to reach the goal to which he had committed. He began training to win the Tour de France although no one gave in any odds at all of reaching his goal.
Much to every expert’s shock and surprise, Armstrong did win the Tour de France in 1999. And then, as if to prove the whole thing wasn’t a fluke, he won it again in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003, 2004, and 2005. A record-breaking seven times! Armstrong won because despite all else, he committed to a clear and precise vision of what he wanted to accomplish despite any “dragon” he might encounter along the way. There is no question that Armstrong’s commitment to a clear and definite purpose despite the worst he might encounter on the way to his goal was an important part of his strategy. It enabled him to be successful with his strategy and to do what others considered to be impossible.
Dealing with Dragons
In my studies of strategy, I’ve found that there are two actions you can take which will help you to maintain your resolve when the going gets rough and dragons appear, as they invariably will, to thwart you on your way toward your goals.
First, during your planning, anticipate what obstacles, problems, or threats are likely to appear. Anticipating such obstacles to your strategy ahead of time allows you to think through and come up with potential solutions before such problems appear. Moreover, the more difficulties you can anticipate, the less will crop up unexpectedly for which you may be unprepared, forcing you to come up with ad hoc solutions under the pressure of time or competition.
The Emperor Napoleon, one of history’s great strategists, wrote, “If I always appear prepared, it is because before entering an undertaking, I have meditated for long and have foreseen what may occur. It is not genius which reveals to me suddenly and secretly what I should do in circumstances unexpected by others. It is thought and meditation.”
The second action you can take is also during the planning stage during which you define your objective. Write down each and every benefit you will achieve when you attain your objective. Review these benefits frequently, especially when obstacles appear. Keeping the benefits of gaining your goals before you — especially when you must deal with difficult problems — will help you to persist during these periods of stress when you may ask yourself, “Is it really worth the effort?”
5. Adjust Your Strategy, But Not Your Objectives
There is no greater example of commitment to purpose greater than that of Irwin Jacobs, chairman of Qualcomm, Inc. Yet Jacobs was forced to adjust his strategy on several significant occasions. Because his goals remained basically unchanged until he achieved them, Jacobs’ story is the essence of sticking to a defined objective no matter what has to be done along the way.
Jacobs, a former engineering professor, co-founded Qualcomm to develop digital wireless technology in 1985. The U.S. wireless industry had previously adopted a system known as time-division multiple access (TDMA) as its digital standard. TDMA had greater reliability than other systems, and this was considered the most important factor.
Jacobs stubbornly developed his products using a far less popular system called code-division multiple access (CDMA) based on compression technology. Jacobs was convinced his system had far greater potential because of its increased access capacity. He continued to base his products on CDMA regardless of development setbacks or criticism. His commitment to his cause was legendary, even though many outsiders said that Jacobs was nuts.
It took Jacobs four long years before he got compression technology working reliably. At that point, he approached The Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA) to present his concepts. However, his timing could hardly have been worse. We look at using timing correctly in chapter nine. As it happened, the CTIA had just completed its own internal fight over standards and technologies. The main competitor to TDMA was the general standard for mobile communications (GSM), the European standard. The fight had been bitter, but TDMA had finally prevailed. That’s when Jacobs wandered in with his proposal that they now consider CDMA again. According to Jacobs, “They threw us out on our ears.”3
But Jacobs stayed focused on his definite objective. He didn’t quit. He knew his compression technology would increase networks’ capacity many times that of competing systems. He didn’t abandon his definite objective, but he realized he had to change his strategy to reach it. Instead of trying to directly convince the CTIA itself, he decided he needed to persuade a single corporation to try his system. He reasoned that if he could prove the advantages he claimed in actual practice, he would influence the CTIA indirectly to adopt CDMA as a standard.
After two more years of struggle, he convinced the wireless division of Pacific Telesis to put up $2 million to build a trial network in San Diego. The results of the trial convinced the CTIA to do something it had once hoped to avoid — it reopened the standards debate. Two years later, CTIA approved Jacobs’ proposed CDMA as a second standard.
Just when it seemed like Jacobs was on the verge of achieving his objective, another “dragon” appeared. Jacobs thought that when CDMA was adopted as a secondary standard, it would help Qualcomm’s image and make things easier. However, the exact opposite occurred. Contrary to helping, reopening the standards debate caused even greater problems. Several corporations had already sunk millions in TDMA. Fearing change, they viciously attacked CDMA as too expensive, too complicated, and susceptible to jamming. If that weren’t enough, Jacobs was personally branded a fraud.
Up to now, Jacobs had sought primary status for CDMA from a potential adopter of his system. Jacobs once again adjusted his strategy. Now, he sought any adoption, even a weak secondary adoption. Two large companies, Northern Telecom Ltd. and Motorola agreed to license Qualcomm’s CDMA technology. Actually, their licensing didn’t amount to much. They were simply covering their bets on the off chance that Jacobs was right about CDMA. Still, this was a success of sorts for Qualcomm. To build upon this small success, Jacobs went to Asia to look for more business.
Though his detractors tried everything to prevent additional sales, including letters sent to likely prospects warning of CDMA’s problems, suggesting that CDMA be subjected to the closest scrutiny, and that Jacobs was not be believed, objective testing began to support Jacobs’ claims.
Then came a huge sales breakthrough. Major carriers of digital wireless, including PrimeCo and Sprint PCS signed on to use CDMA technology. Unfortunately, no one made CDMA handsets, and Sprint and PrimeCo needed tens of thousands. Yet another dragon had reared its head.
Jacobs didn’t falter in his commitment to his definite objective. Where earlier he had decided not to consider making ancillary equipment such as phones, now Jacobs adjusted his strategy again. He convinced Sony to put up 49% in a joint phone-making venture. Qualcomm was now in the cellular phone-making business with a hefty multi-million order for Qualcomm phones, a product Jacobs hadn’t even previously considered.
This led to the next obstacle. A Qualcomm shipment of thousands of phones was halfway across the country at high speed as Jacobs tried desperately to meet a delivery deadline for Sprint. Suddenly it was discovered that each and every phone had a defective menu screen. Fortunately, Qualcomm managed to catch the truck and get it turned around. It rushed back to Qualcomm’s plant in San Diego for a speedy reprogramming. Think Qualcomm’s problems were at last over? Think again.
Ten days before PrimeCo’s national rollout of the phones, someone tried one of the buttons on a Qualcomm phone. An ear-piercing screech nearly deafened him. A second phone was tried with the same results. And then a third. Testing uncovered the problem. It was in the software, so every single phone was affected. They all had deafening screeches. With 40,000 phones already shipped, it was too late to ship them back to San Diego. Engineers flew out to PrimeCo’s Florida warehouse with a just-in-time fix. Over four days all 40,000 phones were reprogrammed with help from every set of hands they could find to turn screws, open up the phones, and make changes. Again, Qualcomm managed to just barely make the deadline.
How many times along the way did Jacobs have to change is strategy in order to continue pursuing his objective? Who cares! Irwin Jacobs commitment to a definite objective had its rewards. Today, most of the new generation wireless systems built use Jacobs’ CDMA technology. Qualcomm sales increased 13.4% last year to exceed $3 billion.4 It licenses CDMA semiconductor technology and system software to more than 100 equipment and cell phone makers.5 Moreover, Industry Weeknamed Qualcomm one of the 100 Best Managed Companies and Fortune Magazine, one of the 100 Best Companies in America to work for. Not bad a testimonial for a strategy based on commitment to a fully defined objective, in which the strategy was adjusted, but never the objective.
Stay Committed to a Definite Objective
Before you can develop a strategy, you must know where you want to go. That’s why the fundamental principle of strategy is commitment to a definite objective. People will willingly follow a leader who shows uncommon commitment to a specific goal. This commitment rests on a foundation based on three forces: physical, mental, and moral. To win out over our competition, we must set define our objectives in such a way as to combine all three so they act as one.
In summary, there are five separate principles involved in committing to a definite objective:
1. Think through your goals until you can clearly define them to both yourself and those who must help you reach them.
2. Make a public commitment to the objectives or goals you have selected.
3. Hold fast to your commitment while promoting your goals and objectives at every opportunity.
4. Obstacles will inevitably appear along the way. Expect them and deal with them while never losing sight of your objective.
5. Once you are committed to a fully defined objective, be ready to adjust your strategy as necessary, but not your objective
Consider these principles as you emulate successful strategists who reach their goals again and again by clearly defining them and committing to achieving each in turn.
1 Peter F. Drucker, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1973) p.77.
3 Schine, Eric and Peter Elstrom, “Not Exactly an Overnight Success,” Business Week, (June 2, 1997), p. 133.
4 Ibid. Pp. 132- 134.
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